'Persian Steel' displays the remarkable collection of steel objects of the Iranian polymath Parviz Tanavoli. The Tanavoli collection, built up over the course of twenty years, testifies to the rich and longstanding place of steel in Persian society. Through Safavid and Qajar times up to the twenieth century, steel has been a part of the region's social, economic and religious life. The collection presented here is fascinating for the multiplicity of forms on show, ranging from humble objects from daily life to artefacts reserved for the economic, religious or military elite. What the collection proves, finally, is the crossover between the artist and the artisan, for here beauty is never sacificed to utility, nor vice-versa.
James Allan is the Keeper of the Department of Eastern Art in the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University and a pre-eminent expert on Metalwork and Islamic Art. He is the author of thirteen books on Islamic Art History.